In a healthy mouth, the inner lining will be covered with mucosa, a special type of skin that is smooth and pink. When changes to the appearance of the mucosa are noted, this could be a warning sign that something is going on with the pathology of your mouth, and the most serious concern is oral cancer. The following signs may indicate a cancerous growth or other pathological process:
- White patches in the mouth
- Red patches in the mouth
- A thickening or lump in the skin that lines the inside of your mouth or your teeth
- Area of tissue that bleeds easily
- Difficulty swallowing or chewing
Pain does not always occur with oral pathologies, so it is important to know how your mouth typically looks and feels. Conducting an oral self-exam once a month is a good habit to get into. When you are more familiar with your mouth, you can tell when any changes occur. Also, frequent and regular check-ups with your general dentist are important to detect any early changes. When caught early, most oral pathologies can be easily treated.
These changes can be detected in the gum tissue, palate, cheeks, lips, face, tongue or neck. Pain might occur, but isn’t always present, especially with oral cancer. However, if you do notice any oral or facial pain without an obvious reason, you could be at risk for developing oral cancer.
A biopsy is commonly conducted to confirm a diagnosis and determine appropriate treatment. An oral biopsy is a small tissue sample of the affected area, taken by your oral surgeon, which is sent off to a lab for diagnosis. Afterward your oral surgeon can determine the appropriate treatment from the pathologist’s findings.
Most oral pathologies are not serious but should be evaluated by an experienced oral and maxillofacial surgeon. They are experienced in the identification and treatment of oral pathologies.